In nine days, you'll cover some ground from the imperial city of Marrakesh to the sand sea of Erg Chebbi just beyond Merzouga. In between, drive over the High Atlas to visit an Argan Oil Cooperative and break bread with a Berber family in the foothills of the Dadès Valley before riding a camel to your desert camp in Erg Chebbi. Smell roses in Kelâat M'Gouna, listen to music at the Gnawa house in Khamleya, tour movie sets and see filming location in Ouarzazate, and discover souks, palaces, and gardens in Marrakesh.


  • Visit Ouarzazate to learn about the films produced in the desert region
  • Explore Dadès Valley on foot and lunch with a Berber family
  • Ride a camel over the dunes of the Sahara to your Bedouin camp
  • Discover mosques, squares, courtyards, and hidden gardens in Marrakesh

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Marrakesh Marrakesh
Day 2 Half-Day Guided Tour of Marrakesh Marrakesh
Day 3 Transfer to Boumalne Dades Boumalne Dades
Day 4 Hike & Lunch with a Local Family in Dadès Valley, Optional Carpet Weaving Boumalne Dades
Day 5 Transfer to Merzouga via Erfoud, Enjoy a Sunset Camel Ride Merzouga
Day 6 Desert Adventures Around Merzouga Merzouga
Day 7 Transfer to Ouarzazate via The Draa Valley Ouarzazate
Day 8 Transfer to Marrakesh via Aït Benhaddou & Tizi-n-Tichka Pass Marrakesh
Day 9 Depart Marrakesh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Marrakesh

Marrakesh, Koutoubia Mosque
Catch your first Moroccan sunset from the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh
Welcome to Morocco! Upon arriving at the Marrakesh International Airport, you'll be met by your guide, who'll transfer you to your hotel for check-in. Relax and get some rest ahead of your busy week, or head out for a short city tour to get acquainted with the city.

Day 2: Half-Day Guided Tour of Marrakesh

Spice vendor in the streets of Marrakech
Spice vendor in the streets of Marrakesh

Known as the "Red City," you'll soon see why as you wander with your guide past the historic red sandstone walls and buildings. You'll visit the bustling Medina (old town), starting at Jemaa el-Fna square, the city's landmark plaza filled with markets, street food, and performers. From here, you'll check out a few of the best souks, including the famed spice towers at Souk el Attarin and traditional Moroccan slippers at Souk Smata. Brass, silver, and other blacksmith goods are at Souk Haddadine. But don't miss Souk des Teinturiers, where you can watch locals dyeing and hanging cloth and yarn.

Next, you'll see the 19th-century Bahia Palace. Stroll the courtyard's lush gardens and admire the intricate woodwork and ornamented ceilings of the palace interior. Then head to Koutoubia Mosque & Gardens, the city's largest, with elegant gardens featuring fountains, pools, palm trees, and flowers. Although non-Muslims can't enter the mosque, anyone can enjoy its surroundings. Lastly, you'll make your way to the Majorelle Gardens, a botanical garden and museum complex that offers a refreshing reprieve from the heat. Dating to the 1920s, fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent restored the gardens to their current state.

In the evening, follow your nose to the enticing smells that waft from food stalls back in Jemaa el-Fna. Watch locals prepare authentic delicacies and taste the flavors of Marrakesh as the sun goes down and the street performers come out to entertain. Alternatively, opt for a food tour to taste traditional delicacies that range from unique sugary confections to savory tajine (stew cooked in a clay pot). 

Day 3: Transfer to Boumalne Dades

A road winds through the Dades Gorge in Morocco
A road winds through the Dades Gorge

Enjoy a private transfer to your accommodation in Boumalne Dades, which takes about 6.5 hours. You'll weave over the Tizi n'Tichka Pass and High Atlas mountains, passing through arid desert landscapes and forested foothills. Try to spot the range's highest summit, Mount Toubkal, and note the traditional Berber villages and unique farmland en route. 

Next, enjoy a quick visit to the el Mansour Reservoir, an important water source for the local farming community. At this point, your journey starts to follow the "Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs," with many kasbahs (defense fortresses) in disrepair. Be on the lookout for nomads tending to their animals, especially as you near Boumalne Dades.

Appreciate the scenery as you enter the Dadès Valley and continue to Kelâat M'Gouna, the "Valley of the Roses." Here, you can admire the cultivated rose bushes and visit a rose collective. Learn how artisans convert rose petals into rose water and oil for the cosmetic industry. Your final stop is Boumalne Dades, a major town straddling the Dades River. Enjoy the scenes of arid landscapes and traditional architecture contrasting with the verdant river valley.

Day 4: Hike & Lunch with a Local Family in Dadès Valley, Optional Carpet Weaving

Hike and lunch with a local family in Dades Valley
Explore the Dadès Valley on foot with a local guide

This morning you'll meet with your guide for an easy walk (four hours) amid the foothills, stopping in a few villages to meet the locals. A perfect introduction to authentic Berber culture and traditions. Besides admiring the unique architecture, you'll get a chance to hear stories about regional history, partake in fun activities, observe traditional farming techniques, and enjoy live entertainment. You'll receive a complete lesson on the Berber people and their lifestyles.

You'll break up the day and join a family in their traditional house for lunch. While enjoying Berber and Moroccan cuisine, learn more about the history of this unique culture. End your meal with an authentic tea ceremony, then drive back to your accommodation in Boumalne Dadès.

There's also the option to visit local women to see the process of traditional carpet weaving, which offers a fascinating insight into a cornerstone of Berber culture. Rug-making is vital to these communities, which you'll witness firsthand when visiting with the women and their families. You'll even get to help out with the weaving.

Day 5: Transfer to Merzouga via Erfoud, Enjoy a Sunset Camel Ride

Erg chebbi and camels
Camel caravan treks through Erg Chebbi
Plan your trip to Morocco
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

The day starts early as you make your way to your Bedouin-style tent accommodation in Merzouga (4 hours). You'll pass through Todra Gorge at 984 feet (300 m) deep and stop for an easy walk amid the red limestone and relax in the cool, shallow water. Just before Erfoud, you'll start to get glimpses of the Saharan dunes. Erfoud is a bustling market town known for its annual Date Festival, fossil mining, and artisan factories. As you continue, you'll soon see the ever-shifting sand waves of Erg Chebbi in the distance.

Upon arrival near Merzouga, enjoy a short break as you prepare for a camel ride through the dunes, reaching your luxury camp just before sunset. After settling into your tent, climb up the nearest dune to watch the sunset display its color show across the sands. Head back to camp for dinner and a night by the campfire, enjoying traditional Berber music from the locals. Before climbing into bed, savor the stars strewn across the unhindered night sky. 

Day 6: Desert Adventures Around Merzouga

Desert Safari Adventures Around Merzouga
Spend two nights under a Sahara night sky

Today you'll explore the desert. Wake early to catch a desert sunrise and then enjoy a 4WD ride over and across the Erg Chebbi dunes, meet with the nomads, enjoy a cup of tea with a local family, and visit the Gnawa house in Khamleya to explore the spiritual healing music. Traditionally practiced throughout Morocco and originating from the sub-Saharan region, Gnaoua music is spiritual music at its roots, although popular maâlems (master musicians) are making the music quite mainstream.

In the late afternoon, you can rent a sandboard and test your skills on the dunes or join a quad ATV tour. Afterward, climb the nearest sand dune to watch the colorful display on the sand sea as the sun sets to the west, then head back to camp for dinner and a night by the campfire enjoying traditional Berber music for a second night under the desert sky.

Day 7: Transfer to Ouarzazate via the Draa Valley

Ochre Hues in the Draa Valley
Pick up a box of dates as you pass through the Draa Valley

Your journey continues to Ouarzazate, the "Gateway to the Sahara" (about 5.5 hours). Your first stop is in the town of Rissani, entering through its impressive gate. Known for its livestock auction, spend some time observing the donkey "parking lot" and walking around the town's popular market. Be sure to check out Maison Touareg, a storehouse filled with traditional arts and crafts, including carpets, jewelry, and leather goods. Continue through the acacia forests, featuring umbrella-shaped trees that adapted to the desert's harsh environment. Stop in the town of Alnif for lunch and view one of the local fossil workshops.

Next, you'll pass the Draa Valley, a rich riverside area filled with endless date palms. Stop by a stall to pick up a small box of sweet dates for the drive. Upon your arrival to Ouarzazate, settle into your hotel, then set out to tour a movie studio or visit the Musée du Cinema, as the picturesque town has been made popular due to the film industry. Learn about the films produced here by getting an up-close look at props and sets. The region surrounding Ouarzazate has been featured in many movies, including "Black Hawk Down," "Prometheus," and "American Sniper," and the HBO series "Game of Thrones."

An isolated military outpost during the years of the French protectorate, Ouarzazate—which means "no noise" in the Berber Tamazight language—long lived up to its name. Today, however, the town is Morocco's Hollywood, and you can regularly see moviemakers setting up shop in this sprawling desert crossroads with wide, palm-fringed boulevards. The center of Ouarzazate is easily explored on foot. Avenue Mohammed V, the main street, runs from east to west with shops, cafés, banks, pharmacies, and tour agencies all along its length.

Day 8: Transfer to Marrakesh via Aït Benhaddou & Tizi-n-Tichka Pass

The kasbah at Aït Benhaddou
The kasbah at Aït Benhaddou

Transfer back to Marrakesh today, with a drive from Ouarzazate that takes you back through the scenic Tizi n'Tichka Pass and over the High Atlas mountains. As you leave Ouarzazate behind, you'll drive through flat plains to the historic Aït Benhaddou, Morocco's most famous kasbah and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old ksour (fortress) dates back to the 11th century when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. Explore the old town's historical alleys, passageways, and markets.

You'll stop in Taddert to visit the Argan Oil Cooperative and learn how local women extract precious oil from the argan nut for use in the health, food, and cosmetic industries. You'll travel back down the north-facing slopes of the High Atlas, where you'll notice a dramatic change in climate and landscape, with river valleys carved into the hillsides. After all the tranquillity of the mountains and the desert, you will soon be amid the hustle, bustle, and clamor of vibrant Marrakesh.

You may want to spend the rest of the afternoon at a slower pace. In the early evening, the main square, Jemaa el-Fna, comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, and food stalls. If you want to enjoy yourself from a distance, there are many cafés surrounding the square where you can sit and admire the show (and a meal).

Day 9: Depart Marrakesh

Farewell Morocco!
Farewell Morocco!

When it's time, you'll transfer from your accommodation to Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK), which takes about 25 minutes. Your driver will ensure that you arrive at the airport in plenty of time for your flight. Have a safe and comfortable journey home or to your next destination!

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Map of South Morocco Adventure: Marrakesh to Merzouga - 9 Days
Map of South Morocco Adventure: Marrakesh to Merzouga - 9 Days